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My Sister Is a Werewolf
By KATHY LOVE
BRAVA BOOKSCopyright © 2007 Kathy Love
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Ouch! Dammit."
Elizabeth threw down her tweezers, blinking away the sudden blur of tears. Gradually both the pain and the blurry vision subsided, leaving her glaring at her reflection.
She swiped at her eyes and reached for the discarded tweezers. Then she changed her mind, leaving them where they'd landed in the sink. It wasn't as if getting her already well-groomed eyebrows further tamed was going to calm the restlessness building inside her. At least it hadn't worked thus far.
Edginess, as if she'd drunk about three pots of coffee in a three-hour span, wracked her body. She wanted to crawl out of her own skin. That particular feeling was usually reserved for the full moon, and she knew that auspicious time of the month was still days away.
She wandered out of her bathroom, roaming from room to room in the sprawling house. The old farmhouse she was renting was just the type of place where she'd always wanted to live. Bedrooms nestled under the eaves, a wraparound porch with a swing, a huge country kitchen. Woods, mountains. The place was perfect. So why couldn't she cast off the feeling that something wasn't right, that something was about to happen?
She started at every sound. She paced like a caged animal.
You are anxious to hear what Dr. Fowler thinks, she told herself.
At first she'd tried to attribute the anxiety to her new surroundings. But she knew that wasn't it. She'd moved a lot, stayed in places far more secluded than this, and she'd never felt nervous.
And this wasn't nerves, exactly. It was ... as if she was being driven slowly mad, by something she couldn't see or hear or feel. An endless unsatisfied feeling—so intense she couldn't seem to concentrate on anything else.
It must be the newest serum, she considered, not for the first time. But again, she toyed with the idea. These feelings had started before her last injection. Still, what else could it be?
The idea upset her. The serum she'd prayed would finally cure her had apparently done nothing—except possibly make her an agitated, nervous wreck. Not what she'd been going for. Oh, she had seen a change in the cells, but none in her condition. Hence sending her findings to Dr. Fowler.
She paced the length of the upstairs hallway again. She had to hear from him soon. She'd been so convinced she was on the right track. So certain she'd gotten it right this time. Dammit.
A loud bang halted her train of thought, or perhaps accentuated it. She paused for a second at the top of the staircase, then hurried down, her feet silent on the worn wooden steps. Carefully, she approached the front door, pushing aside the curtain to peek out.
The sun had nearly disappeared among the mountains and trees—only faint traces of pinkish orange streaked the sky where the orb had been. But Elizabeth's eyes adjusted instantaneously to the waning light. She could see her front yard as clearly as if it were lit by the noonday sun.
Another sharp bang sounded again, causing her to freeze, her muscles tensing. Every part of her body remained motionless except for her eyes, which scanned the yard, taking in every detail.
A large barn that accompanied her house loomed to the right, a black hulk against the evening sky. As another gust of wind blew through trees, she saw the barn door swing, then hit its frame with a sharp, resounding whack.
She shook her head, annoyed at her panicky reaction. She wasn't a person to be easily shaken—even through the years with ...
The door slammed again, the noise startling her. She fully expected to see someone out there in the shadows, even though she knew what was causing the sound.
Something else she could add to this strange edginess: the feeling of being watched, although she'd not found any signs to validate that feeling. More unexplained weirdness.
Unless maybe he was coming for her. He hadn't contacted her in all these years, but that didn't mean it couldn't happen. Hell, she didn't even know if he'd ever looked. But she knew he would come eventually—after all, she was his. His forever.
She shivered. Why was she even thinking of Brody? She hadn't in years. Why now? She pulled in a deep breath to calm herself—as much as she could. She supposed it was everything. Her nerves. And she realized that getting closer to a cure also reminded her of him. That she could truly be free.
"You, Elizabeth," she reminded herself, saying the words out loud as if vowing them to the empty house would make them true, "are only his until you find the cure."
So stop acting like a ninny, and get back to work.
She opened the front door and headed down the steps of the porch. The breeze ruffled her hair and felt crisp on her skin. Newly fallen leaves crunched under her feet; she savored their scent, earthy and rich. A clean, natural scent.
She breathed in, taking the fresh air deep into her lungs. The distant hint of wood smoke mingled with the other smells of autumn, not tainting the scent but adding to it.
However, her enjoyment was short-lived. Even the signs of fall, her favorite season, seemed to agitate her, restlessness snaking through her limbs, pooling in her belly.
Damn, she felt like screaming. What was wrong with her? She was usually an unruffled person, having learned to control her emotions long ago, when she realized how little control she had over her new life. Her calm was her control. Composure, her way to manage the unmanageable.
Now she felt set adrift, like she had when she'd first realized what she'd become. Not that anyone could fault her for getting a little agitated about discovering she was a werewolf. That did tend to shake a person—just a little.
She picked up her steps, hurrying into the barn, securing the door behind her as if she could keep her anxious feelings at bay. Locked outside. If only.
Repeating her now familiar chant to calm down over and over in her head, she walked to the far end of the barn where she had sectioned off several of the old horse stalls and knocked down the dividers, using thick plastic to create makeshift walls and a ceiling. Her lab. Certainly not what she'd had in New York, but she liked it. And she planned to build a proper lab in there after the winter, if she still needed a lab by then. She hoped she wouldn't.
She refused to look at the stall across from her temporary lab as she parted the plastic and stepped inside, even though she could visualize the thick chains and manacles mounted to the rafters overhead. Instead, she concentrated on the creaking of the floorboards under her feet. The whistle of the wind outside. A storm was building.
Then she forced everything aside as she busied herself with taking her cell samples out of the small refrigerator and preparing slides.
After dropping her third slide in a row, she gave up.
"Damn it, damn it, damn it," she muttered. She braced herself against the edge of the table, closing her eyes, trying to get control.
"You're tired," she told herself. She hadn't slept for more than a few hours for days. Because you know you are close.
But she knew it wasn't just the urgency of her research that kept her awake. Sleeplessness was another issue that had arisen shortly after moving here—seemingly not in conjunction with the injection, either. She didn't understand what was causing it, but she knew the insomnia wasn't helping her anxiety.
"Calm down," she muttered to herself. "Relax. You are close."
She'd even been so sure she was only just a few genome sequences away that she'd sent her latest serum to Dr. Fowler, her mentor. He'd be able to look at the cell changes and tell her where the cure stood. She knew it was so close.
And that was probably part of her impatience and agitation. She couldn't wait to hear back from Fowler.
Opening her eyes, she still felt unsteady, but her reasoning had helped a little. For the first time, she realized her workstation was littered with test tubes, petri dishes, discarded slides. She frowned at the mess, surprised by it. Normally, she was very neat. Almost compulsively so.
"That's your problem," she said, fumbling to tidy her space. "You're rushing. You're not taking your time and thinking clearly. You are anxious to hear what Dr. Fowler thinks and it's making you careless. You need to just calm down."
"Who?" an eerie voice said from behind her.
Elizabeth spun; her lips curled back, her stance ready to attack. The thick plastic seemed to shiver as the wind whistled through the barn boards, but otherwise she heard no sound. Still she didn't relax her pose as she cocked her head, listening intently.
The walls creaked under another gust of the wind. She could hear the leaves rustling outside. Then she heard the ghostly question again.
Taking slow, precise steps, she edged closer to the entrance of the lab. The plastic rustled as another blast of wind caused the barn to moan. She hesitated for just a fraction of a second, then whipped apart the thick, draped plastic.
Elizabeth's head snapped upward, realizing the sound was coming from overhead. Even though the barn was dark, she could still easily see the several oval shapes lined up on the rafters. Yellow eyes blinked down at her. She tilted her head, surprised.
"Owls?" she said, a bewildered smile touching her lips. Seven owls peered at her. When was the last time she'd seen an owl this close? In the stables of her family's Derbyshire estate, maybe?
She watched them for a moment, amused by the rare sight. Or rather, a rare sight to her. Then she took a step closer, fully expecting the animals to sense they were near something that they really shouldn't be, and fly away. But they remained still, except for the occasional blink of those impassive eyes.
Frowning, she stepped closer, until she was nearly beneath the rafter. The birds didn't shift and showed no inclination to flee. Instead they bowed their heads, watching her with those golden, unreadable eyes.
"What are you crazy birds doing?" she finally asked, with a bewildered shake of her head. The reply to her question was more incomprehensible blinks.
How very odd. It would have been odd enough for so many owls to be perched in the barn. But to stay near her? That was very strange.
Thunder rumbled in the distance, and Elizabeth wondered if the birds had decided she was a safer risk than the approaching storm. Another gust of wind hit the barn, and a draft reached her where she stood. Air played over her skin and ruffled the tendrils of her hair like unseen fingers.
She gasped at the invisible touches, something akin to desire rocketing through her, shocking and powerful. Too powerful. Overhead she heard the whoosh of wings fill the air, joining the mayhem.
Well, the owls weren't completely senseless. They had sensed the powerful change in her, and self-preservation had finally kicked in. She watched them swoop through the rafters, as she tried to suppress the strange compulsion inside herself. Finally, although she had no idea how much time had passed, she felt under control. Mostly under control.
Slowly, one by one, the owls returned to their previous perch, again watching her. She stared back, confused.
"Why are you here?" she asked.
One hooted, another blinked, and none of them answered her—of course.
Suddenly the strangeness of the past few days, the agitation within her, this new and sudden flare of restlessness that had felt strangely like arousal—even the damned owls staring down at her—were too much.
She had to be driving herself too hard. She needed a break. Surely she could spare one evening. She obviously needed it. Then she could approach all of this again in the morning, calmer, more relaxed.
She looked back up at the owls, who sat stock-still. The embodiment of tranquility.
Oh yeah, she needed to get away from here.
Chapter TwoElizabeth heeled down the kickstand of her motorcycle just as the rain started to fall in large, cold splats around her. She'd parked the large black Harley Night Rod as close to the side of the building as she could, hoping that would shield it from some of the water. With quick steps, she approached the bar, working the chinstrap of her helmet and pulling it off just as she stepped through the door.
She glanced around, searching for her brother. She located him behind the bar, where he poured a mug of beer from the tap. The sight still gave her pause. Christian. Her brother. Her family. The family she'd believed was gone forever. The fact that the wealthy brother she remembered now tended bar in a backwoods watering hole just added to the surrealism of the scene.
"Elizabeth," he greeted her with a smile that seemed just a little amazed as well.
As she walked up to him, her boots thudding loudly on the worn floorboards, she wondered if his expression reflected his own amazement that she was alive, too. The fact that she and her brothers had been reunited for nearly three months now hadn't diminished their wonder. Her beloved brothers.
Christian's eyes left her face, dropping to her outfit for just a fraction of a second. Some of her joy fled. Maybe the amazement in his eyes had more to do with the fact that she was nothing like the little sister he remembered.
But whether he was shocked by who she was now or not, his pale eyes shone with pleasure as he came around the bar and gave her an enveloping hug.
"Hey, I'm glad you stopped by tonight," he said after he released her. "Jolee and I were thinking about coming up to your place to be sure you were all right. You've been a real recluse since you moved there."
Guilt filled her. When she'd believed her brothers were dead, she'd cried over the loss for years. She'd begged to have them back. Yet now that she finally had them, she had a hard time facing them.
"My research is keeping me very busy," she told him, feeling the excuse was lame, even though it was true. Just not the whole truth.
She feared that her brother wouldn't understand, much less like, the person she was now. She was so, so different from the young, naive girl her brother once knew. But she didn't want to be. She had her family back now, and she wanted that girl back, too. That long-gone girl.
Whereas, aside from being more handsome, stunningly so, Christian was unchanged. He looked just like the brother she believed dead in 1822. But time had no effect on vampires, except to make them more attractive. He was still the Christian she remembered.
She knew he didn't see the same arrest of time in her. She'd once been the baby of the family—nearly ten years Christian's junior—but now she'd caught up to him. In fact, she was his same age exactly. And that was just the start of the changes.
Did he wonder where the frivolous, carefree, innocent sister he'd once known had gone? And who was this older, leather-clad, toughened woman who stood in front of him now?
"You look great," he said as if he guessed what she was thinking. He hugged her again.
This time, she closed her eyes and hugged him back. God, she had missed him.
"So this is the long-lost sister, eh?"
Elizabeth glanced toward the gravelly voice that sounded behind Christian. Even though she'd only been to Christian's—or rather his mate, Jolee's—bar once or twice since moving here, she recognized the speaker. An old, thin man with a bushy beard and watchful eyes. On the same bar stool where she'd seen him last with a mug of beer in front of him and a cigarette hanging from his lips.
"Elizabeth, you remember—" Christian started, but the old man cut him off.
"Just call me Trader Vic."
Elizabeth frowned at the amused look on the old man's wizened face, then realized the joke. So this old coot knew the truth about her. Given that, she supposed it was hard to pass up a good Warren Zevon joke. "Werewolves of London" was like a national anthem for her kind.
She expected to be irritated that this stranger, this mortal, knew what she was, but something in the old man's eyes reassured her that her secret was safe with him.
"Hey, Vic. So I guess you know that I'm not Little Red Riding Hood?"
The older man chuckled, then reached for his beer.
Christian cast a puzzled look between the two, then shook his head. "Okay. Introductions have been made—I think. Take a seat here," he gestured to the stool beside the old man's, "and let me get you a drink."
Elizabeth nodded, placing her helmet on the floor next to her seat. Damn, she needed a drink. She started to ask Christian for a whiskey, straight up, then stopped.
Excerpted from My Sister Is a Werewolf by KATHY LOVE Copyright © 2007 by Kathy Love. Excerpted by permission of BRAVA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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